#FDOFG2017: Marshmallow Challenge 2017

I learned about the Marshmallow Challenge about 5 years ago and I’ve been doing it with classes ever since!  It’s always fun to see what a new class with do with the challenge–how they tackle it, how tall their towers are, what strategies they use to work as a team, etc.  Like with most years, we did it twice, with a debrief in the middle to help us think about what worked and what we could change.

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We had an ok start, and kids took pretty quickly to what they were supposed to do.  Teams (which I chose ahead of time and are groups we will use periodically all year) worked well and learned to negotiate who did what/when/how, etc.  After our first round–where all of the towers fell over–we talked together on the carpet:

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The black words are from our first conversation; the green arrows denote the things we changed that made our second went much better.  So yeah–spoiler alert!–we tried again and this time teams were much more successful.  Successful, we thought, meant that our towers stood up and everyone participated and helped the activity work.

Check out our 2nd go-round:

Our final towers were pretty impressive and our teams were pretty proud!

Great job, Rm. 111 friends!  🙂

#FDOFG2017: Ten Black Dots

Remember when we read The Line and did drawing starts with Mrs. Berger?  It was a great experience for Rm. 111 kiddo and an opportunity to use our creativity and grit.  Well…we went back last Friday and did it again!  Not the drawing start part, but the creativity and grit part. 🙂

During our second visit to Mrs. Berger’s room, she shared Ten Black Dots by Donald Crews with us.  Many of us had heard it before, but maybe as a math book instead of an invitation to think in a new and different way.

We read and discussed the book and looked at the many ways Crews imagined what those ten dots could become.  And then, just as she had done with drawing starts, Mrs. Berger asked me to give it a try (and somehow even though she does this every year, I was totally surprised.  LOL).  So…I stared at the big white paper, trying to see something besides big black circles

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To be honest, I could have made the caterpillar I have done most every other time (boo–I know that’s not very creative!), but I figured I should try a little harder.  So I kept thinking and started moving those dots around on the blank page.

After the dots, I added some details and then stood back to see if they could figure out what my dots had become.

So…my ten black dots became:

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A fancy lady’s hair!

The funniest part to me is that most kiddos thought it was a self-portait!  Ha!

So after my beautiful example, kiddos were give a pile of dots (ours were red and yellow) from which they had to count out ten and then create something marvelous.   Kiddos went to their personal “offices” and got busy.  They were given about 20 minutes to work, and friends were challenged and then encouraged to work the whole time, adding more details if they thought they were finished before time was up.  The sound of quietly working kiddos and the creations that emerged as fabulous!

And so in the end, our ten black dots became…so many great things!  Check out our thinking:

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Again, first grade grit and greatness shined through and we ROCKED this challenge!!  Can’t wait for the next one! Wonder what it will be! 🙂

#FDOFG2017: Drawing Starts

At Robinson we are blessed with loads of gifted and talented teachers, including one who works with all kinds of gifted and talented Robinson kids, Mrs. Berger.  During the beginning weeks of first grade, every first grader goes through a series of lessons (I think there are 5) that helps us identify and highlight creativity and critical thinking of each individual kiddo.  The lessons are a variety of things that help students think and share in different ways.

The first time we visited Mrs. Berger she shared a great book with us called The Line.

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In the story, you watch as the little girl follows a line, which becomes all kinds of things, like a monster, a bear, a wave.  It reminded me of the kind of thinking that we did during our box challenge, where an ordinary item became countless other things just based on kiddos’ imaginations.

In our first invitation, kiddos were given a set of lines–drawing starts–where they had to take the squiggle or shape and create something completely new.

Before kiddos get started, however, Mrs. Berger always invites ME to do this activity.  I have to be honest that even after years of being asked to do that, it doesn’t really get easier!  I am always a little anxious, especially when I feel pressure to do it “right,” –with an audience! Each time, though, I step back and remember how much modeling the difficulty and working through it helps the learners who are watching.  They know that if I can do it, then can, too.  In many ways, because I was willing to do the same thing they were being asked to do, they were able to trust me when I told them they could do it.  They knew that I understood what it felt like to look at that squiggle or swish and not have an idea right away.  🙂 Together we use our grit and persistence to get through, and Rm. 111 learners did a great job!  Check out some of their creations!

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My favorite thing about when kiddos do drawing starts is how many of them are certain that they CAN’T do it, but then, when pushed a little (because NOT doing it is not an option) they settle in and come up with some amazing ideas.  Each child’s thinking is different, and each idea is “right.”  It’s a foundation for much of what we do later on in the year, as we focus on sticking it out, pushing through, using our positive self talk and believing in our abilities.  Way to go, Rm. 111 kiddos!  Oh, and I know you’re dying to see my drawing start, too.

(Hopefully you see a girl jump roping in that picture! LOL)

Can’t wait for our next visit!  There’s sure to be another interesting invitation to be creative and gritty!

#FDOFG2017–Box Challenge

We read a book lately that perfectly went along with our focus on play, grit and creativity (wow, that’s quite a first grade trifecta!):

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It’s favorite that I found last year (and was so good that I started the whole year with it!), and as Ms. Turken and I planned our first days, we knew it HAD to make an appearance again this year.

The preparation for this project started weeks before we started, with the collection of boxes.  Lots and lots of boxes of all shapes and sizes.

As we read the book together, we noticed what was happening in the child’s imagination and were thinking about how we’d answer the question: “What would you do with a box?” Which by the way, is NOT the title of the box, but is somehow the way I read it EVERY SINGLE time I look at the front of it.  Weird.  Maybe I just want it to be an invitation instead of a direction. 🙂

So after we read, kiddos made plans for which box they’re use and how they’d use it.  This was not a typical design challenge in the fact that they could use whatever they wanted as far as materials, and the only real constraint was time.  And wow–there was creativity all over the room!  Check it out!

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Now, as with many of the things we do in the beginning of the year are dual-purposed.  We are learning how first grade works at the same time as we’re using our creativity and having fun.  What usually happens is that we have a debrief about how each activity went, and we chart plusses (what went well) and deltas (things we should change for next time).  This helps us become (and hopefully stay!) aware of how to manage our behavior.  We had done this a couple of times, but with this project, Ms. Turken and I decided to tweak the wording just a bit.

We’ve been talking alot at Robinson this year about expected (and therefore unexpected behaviors), as a means of helping students to better understand how to “be a Roadrunner and show it all the time” as our mindset suggests they should do.

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We added in specific behaviors to focus on and so these are what we analyzed during our debrief.  We were noticing that some of our friends are using the words “good” and “bad” when speaking of their choices and we wanted to help connect all of our behavior expectations together.  You’ll notice on this chart that there was some AMAZING stuff happening during this project and kids were ROCKING those expected behaviors!

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I’ve been really impressed since this discussion as I’ve both seen many more expected behaviors, as well as hearing kiddos using the language with their peers and as we talk about our day and how we can be our best learning selves.  Whew!  Who knew there was so much to learn with a BOX?!

#FDOFG2017–We’ve Got GRIT!!

Like I mentioned in our first post about our first day in first grade, we’ve been busy, as there are LOTS of new things to learn at the beginning of the year.  Any year really, but especially in first grade!  This post is about something every important around our classroom and our school–GRIT!

You might already know about how we have a Robinson Mindset that we have learned and use, and that we start everyday with together.  One really important part of it is: I have grit! In fact, it’s so important it’s the first line!

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So…knowing how important this idea is, we have to make mighty sure that kiddos know what it means and how they use it and get it.  Most of them have at least some knowledge from kindergarten (and their super smart parents who may have already taught them about it!), and so we started there.  We charted what we remembered:

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Aside from just being able to talk about GREAT though we have to be able to use it, right?  Pull it up from deep down inside even when things are super tricky and really hard.  So next we did an activity that gave them the chance to do that–PUZZLES!!

First I talked about how I do a jigsaw puzzle everyday!  I have an app on my iPad that lets you build puzzles, and has a new “puzzle of the day” each morning.  It’s one of my favorite things to do, and helps keep my brain awake and active.  I LOVE how it feels when you’re working a really hard puzzle and then you finally figure it out!  I want kiddos to feel that same feeling, as well as realize that some things are even hard for grown-ups!

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We picked partners, and also the puzzle we’d do–there were some that were 24 pieces, some that were 60, and some that were 100 pieces!  After some quick directions about where to go and how you HAD TO KEEP WORKING, we got busy.  As a side note, I was watching for what would happen with GRIT during this activity, but I was also collecting data on partnerships that worked well.

Some teams were able to finish their puzzle, and 1 team even got to start (and mostly finish) another one.  We worked for about 20-30 minutes and then gathered to debrief.  We talked about what we had learned about what helped us and what was tricky.  Some of their smart strategies are the ones that I use as an adult to do my puzzles, too!

As with many things, we decided (well, actually they asked!) if we could do this whole puzzle thing again.  Some said if they’d have had more time they could have finished, and some wanted to tackle the same puzzle after our conversation and try some of the new strategies they’d heard from their friends.  We (Ms. Turken, who we work with ALOT now, and I) decided that this was a GREAT idea.

We planned a read aloud first, which highlighted the idea of trying new and different ideas, not giving up and working to complete your task even when it’s tricky.  We read the book Stuck by Oliver Jeffers together as two first grade classes.  This protocol is always fun and helpful as there are SO MANY FIRST GRADE BRAINS to learn from and different perspectives to consider.

After this book and some super creative thinking about how the boy in the story (Floyd) used his GRIT to get his kite (and then everything else he threw in the tree) unstuck, we checked out the posters our classes had made separately and noticed the similarities and differences.  Many strategies were similar, but there were ideas that were specific to each one and it was great to be able to share these new ideas with everyone before they got to work again.

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We had planned to use the SAME partners and do the SAME puzzle, but we did do one thing DIFFERENT: we traded teachers!  This time Ms. Turken worked with Rm. 111 kiddos and I stayed to learn from/with Rm. 112 kiddos.  It was an opportunity for us to get to know each other better, as well as for me to see her kids in action, perhaps seeing different things than Ms. Turken did.  Being able to share new insights on our students is one of the things we’re already loving about working so closely together!  Lots more friends finished puzzles this time than they did on our first go-round.

These are some Rm. 111 friends I worked with that day–look how engaged they are!

After our work time, we gathered one more time to discuss how it went, and shared things that had we had changed, things we had learned or things we had noticed.

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Ms. Turken led the conversation as we shared our smart thinking! (And yes, I promise I will include more pictures of me–seems funny to see someone else’s face all over my blog! lol).

What a great day of learning, and one that we will keep coming back to for a VERY LONG TIME!!

SOLD!!

I was trying to figure out how to break the almost-3-month hiatus (what??)  I’ve had on this blog, and wasn’t sure how best to do that.  There are obviously LOADS of stories I need to tell about what has happened since February when I was last here (and by the way, I had to go back and look at when I wrote my last post–whoa!!  It was way longer ago than I had remembered!).  But…I figure the best way to come back from a long absence is to explain what I’ve been doing, right?  Hence the title.  Can you figure out what it is??  Let me start with a picture. 🙂

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It has really been unbelievable to me how much time and energy it takes to get your house ready to go on the market and then to actually work to sell it!  I have figured out in the weeks since February 16 (when I last posted here) that I must only have “free” time to accomplish one thing at a time. So that thing became house projects, and not running or blogging or reading, or really anything else!!  Man.  But, even though we’re not officially across the finish line yet (don’t close for another 6 weeks or so), we’ve crossed some hurdles and are hopeful it will all work out. 🙂

As I come back and hopefully settle back into a regular routine (which is funny considering that there are also only 18 days of school left!), I will start with some stories about things I’ve learned through this getting-your-house-ready-to-sell process.  It was a lot like what happens in formal learning at school–some ups, lots of downs, hard work and many lessons learned along the way.  And even though I have had many frustrating moments, I’ve come out on the other side in one piece, relatively unscathed. And with more appreciation for the process and new knowledge about lots of different things.

The biggest project I’d say I undertook was tiling my bathrooms.  Right now we live in a 25 or so year-old ranch house, with builder-grade bathrooms (something we just had never gotten around to updating the 6 1/2 years we’ve been here).  Well, buyers these days don’t really love those, so we had to do something about it.  That required a new floor, new vanity, new mirror and paint touch ups.  As I do with most things, I was determined to figure out how to do-it-myself (rather than pay someone to do it), and began the necessary research.

While I know that there are people who do masterful things with tile in bathrooms, my job was just 12 X 12 squares in a 6 X 6 room, which was relatively (at least in my mind!) easy.  In my reading, I found out all about the cement board base (and how to cut and attach it), as well as the do’s and don’ts of how to lay out the tile, attach it, grout it, etc., and so I gathered my materials and got to work.  Ok, not really.  I probably took about 10 trips to Home Depot as I realized something I didn’t have or didn’t have enough of to finish a particular part.  Pretty sure my new friend’s name is Robert.  He waited on me at least 3 or 4 of those times. 🙂

For those of you who know about tiling, this next part will be really boring, so feel free to skim. For those of you who don’t feel free to keep reading (and learn how!) and see what my process looked like.

The size and shape of that bathroom should have been an easy job.   And if you know what you’re doing I guess it is.  Instead, it took me 5 times longer.  Mainly I’d saw I learned how important having the right tools for the job are; if I’d only driven to get the wet tile saw in the first place, and not tried to use the cheap tile-splitter thing (that didn’t work!), I would have been done at least 1 day and a half sooner!

When we were putting the bathroom back together, there was some toilet drama (did you know that’s a thing?) because the height of the floor had changed,  I found some hidden wallpaper that I had to remove (add another day), and the vanity was a little trickier to level than we’d thought it would be.  But goodness, can I tell you how grateful we both are for YouTube?  I mean there really is a video out there to teach you how to do ANYTHING!!

I finally finished and was so proud of the work I had done.  There were many times I had to dig deep and push myself to figure out a problem or redo a part that didn’t work out teh way I first wanted it to.  I had to be really gritty (and not just because of the tile grout LOL) and have a growth mindset.  I’d say that in addition to having a great bathroom at the end of the process, it was also really rewarding just the next weekend when I had ANOTHER bathroom to do and it was SO MUCH EASIER than the first.  The second one was probably 2/3 bigger but took much much less time because of the mistakes I’d made and things I’d learned from the other one.  What a great example of how to take struggles and hardships and use them for good!  And after I had TWO tile floors to tiptoe around on, I felt twice as proud!

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I think the best part of this whole house process has been how it reminds me of what it’s like to be a student.  There were times when I didn’t know what to do, and I had some choices: I could quit, I could cry, I could ask someone for help, or I could try to find out the information for myself and try to solve the problem.   I love those times that help me remember that being gritty and being a problem solver is sometimes really hard.  But being able to do that, use my positive self-talk and come out with a “win” in the end makes it all worth it!  And what a great story to share with my students!

So anyhow, I figured I should explain where I’ve been and say thanks for being here for my return!!  Can’t wait to tell you more stories about what’s been happening lately in the world of Rm. 202!  Please stay tuned! Talk to you again soon!

Grit Smells Like Chocolate Chip Cookies!

What? You didn’t know that?  Well it does when you’re talking about Rm. 2o2 kiddos!!  And we know so because we’ve been using TONS of it while we work with Mrs. Berger on Fridays.

This week’s visit was about patterns.  We met together on the circle rug to try some out together first.  We learned about repeating patterns and growing patterns.

Then we got our spots, our personal office and got BUSY!  This was definitely something that was UP OUR ALLEYS and you could tell by the sound (it was silent!) and the smell (it smelled like cookies!–remember, that’s our grit!?).